CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s annual Celebration of Consecrated Life will be held Sunday, Feb. 9, at St. Joseph Chapel, 1501 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee.
The prayer service will be at 2 p.m., followed by an informal reception. Both events are free, and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
This service has been held for the past eight years, beginning as a musical performance by a massed choir comprised of members of different religious communities, said planning committee chairperson Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, SSSF. About six years ago, the group began collaborating with the archdiocese, who now sponsors the event.
“I love this event because I love the idea of men and women from different communities coming together to stand as a witness to consecrated life, which has many facets,” she said.
The prayer service also honors lay associates of religious communities, emphasizing the crucial partnership that exists between consecrated people and the laity in the Body of Christ.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Gratitude and Responsibility in the Spirit of Laudato Si.” The service will be presided over by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, with Fr. Ed Cook, pastor of the Congregation of the Great Spirit, serving as homilist.
In preparation for this event, religious communities serving the archdiocese were asked to share ways that they have chosen to honor the spirit of Laudato Si through their life and ministries since the release of the encyclical. The stories they shared informed Fr. Cook’s homily.
The choir will consist of approximately 60 singers, the majority of whom are religious sisters and brothers from about a dozen communities in the area, as well as some diocesan clergy and lay associates, said choir director Charles Sullivan.
Sullivan, who was previously the director of Early Music Now and for several years has directed the medieval drama at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, has directed the choir all eight years the service has been held. He said the pieces performed by the choir will tie in with the theme of Laudato Si and will “emphasize the roles that both thanksgiving and responsibility play in the lives of consecrated individuals.”
“The program will open with American Indian drumming and cleansing of the space by ‘smudging,’ followed by an Indian hymn recognizing the roots of our legacy of Creation that Laudato Si calls us to protect,” he said. “Flute and violin will join the choir for a setting of ‘The Prayer of St. Francis,’ and other readings and hymns call us to action as well as to prayer.”
The incorporation of Native American traditions of prayer was acutely important to the planning committee, said Sr. Wagner. “It’s more than a nod — it’s an integral part of the service.”
Fr. Peter Schuessler, SDS, is a longtime member of the planning committee who said that attendees can expect to “step out of the busyness of their life and gather as a community, to pray and celebrate the gift of religious life.”
The diversity of mission and personality within the orders represented is a beautiful thing to behold, he said.
“We have so many charisms — we have a number of religious orders serving the Archdiocese and each order brings with it its own special gift, its own charism,” he said. “These complement the ministry done by others in the archdiocese like the diocesan priests. That’s really one of the main things we celebrate.”